GM Thought of the Week: Half the World is Now Online
It has been reported recently that at this current moment in time, around half of the world’s population is now ‘online’.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has estimated that 51.2% of all individuals will be using the internet at the beginning of 2019. That is around 3.9 billion individuals based on current estimates of a 7.7 billion world population. It is thought that this has increased from around 20% from just a decade ago – a remarkable increase.The UN agency reported that the strongest growth was in Africa, where the percentage of people using the Internet increased from 2.1% in 2005 to 24.4% in 2018. The regions with the lowest growth rates were Europe and the Americas unsurprisingly.
This milestone will no doubt lead to improvements in people’s lives and is somewhat of an inevitability. There is a plethora of benefits that come from an expanded and integrated digital society – The Economist suggests that a 10% increase in internet access associates to a 1.35% increase in GDP for developing countries so any bridging of the digital divide is a good thing, particularly in regard to access to information and reduced economic inequality.
However, despite this landmark bringing economic growth and development problems still remain. Internet adoption has slowed – Despite Africa showing the biggest growth, just 22% of the region’s population is connected. ‘’Disproportionate access to the internet could lead to unequal access to opportunities, jobs or ability to deal with unexpected events,” says the report. There is still a long way to go.
Increased internet activity will lead to an increase in hacking. This costs the global economy a staggering $400 billion a year. Digital information as we have seen most prominently in the US election and even the Brexit vote can be manipulated. The potential for misinformation campaigns to be waged for nefarious means is enormous. Cyberattack instances grew by around 66% in the first half of 2018 compared with the entirety of 2017. Therefore, governments and companies should focus on affordability to further bridge the digital divide and dismantling the barriers to internet entry. Both should also work together to implement sensible policy towards the threat of hacking and cyber attacks and to mitigate the risks which will only become greater in a more encompassed digital world.